Some of you may have heard the stories of people in Japan using their cellphone to pay for groceries, as a train pass, and buying drinks from a vending machine. When I moved to Japan for the second time, I decided that I was going to take advantage of as many things as my phone had to offer.
Pretty much all Japanese cellphones these days have a function called “Osaifu Keitai” (wallet cellphone), which uses the Sony Mobile Felica IC touch reading system. The Felica symbol looks like this:
Now, let’s talk about WAON. I first learned about WAON when visiting a grocery store in Ono, and figured it was just some membership to rack up points while grocery shopping. I didn’t intend on using WAON, but then while looking for mobile applications to use with my cellphone, I found a WAON app, so I decided to try it out. At AEON-affiliated stores, they offer a lot of deals for WAON users, so I figured it would help me out if I started using it now for the time that I’m in Japan.
I will explain how I set up my phone (REGZA T004 with au by KDDI) to use WAON. If you have Softbank or NTT DoCoMo and want to try this, I can’t really help you in detail but the procedure might be similar. Also, please learn some Japanese if you can’t really read that much, unless you’re like me and know how to figure things out without knowing what certain Kanji mean.
The first thing I did was download the WAON app. When you launch the app for the first time, you’ll see an explanation of Mobile WAON and JMB Mobile WAON. If I’m not mistaken, JMB WAON will give you Mileage points instead of WAON points. Scroll down past this message and select which WAON service you want to register (I’m assuming you want the regular Mobile WAON).
When you get to the application page, fill in your name (last name first, of course) using Katakana in both the Kanji and Kana fields. It also asks for your phone number, e-mail address, and I think your residential address as well. Once all of the fields are filled in, confirm it. You may or may not get a confirmation e-mail of some sort; I didn’t get one on my phone even though I turned off the mail filter temporarily.
The next part took me a bit of time to figure out. If you end up exiting the app right after registration, when you launch the app again it’ll start all over and make you think that your registration didn’t go through (it actually did). So once you register, proceed to your nearest WAON チャージャー (not WAON ステーション), which is likely at an AEON-affiliated department store. The thing about Mobile WAON is that, unlike with WAON cards, you can’t charge it with money via credit card (you probably don’t have a Japanese credit card anyway), so you have to charge it with cash.
Charging is easy. At the WAON Charger, you just follow the directions on the screen. Place your phone on the Felica symbol and the machine will read it, and tell you that you have 0 yen and 0 points if it’s your first time. It’ll then ask how you want to charge, cash (現金) or credit card. Choose cash, start inserting as much money as you want. The last time I used the charger, it was only letting me put in one bill at a time, so I had to charge it three times to put in 3000 yen. I think the max is 20,000 yen, I think in the span of a month. When you’re finished, press the blue 入金 button. You’ll get a receipt and you’re done. If you want to check your WAON balance, just open the WAON app and it’ll show you.
Using the WAON reader to pay is also very simple. If you’re at a cashier, just tell them that you’re using WAON to pay, and then touch your phone to the Felica machine. When you hear the sound of a dog’s bark (hence the name “waon”) it means the transaction went through. Congratulations! You’ve just made a purchase using your cell phone.
Of course, you can also buy a WAON card, which costs 300 yen and requires no registration. And if you’re ever concerned about not having enough money on your card, you can charge right there at the register–just ask the cashier. Yesterday I bought a few items for the apartment, and noticed a sign on the counter about charging the card before making a purchase. So I asked the cashier, and she just asked how much money I wanted to put on it. Then I made my purchase, and voila! I ended up not going home with my items.
Because they were too big for me to load onto my bike ^_^ So I asked to have them delivered to my apartment. The items were a metal rack for the kitchen, a black curtain, and a cushion for the couch. The box and the cushion were just too big for me to even want to try carrying them home on a Monday night.
So anyway, that’s WAON. There are other similar payment services such as Nanaco and Edy. If you’re familiar with Suica, ICOCA, and other smart cards for the train and other stores, WAON is just as simple. If you have any specific questions, feel free to ask. Next I want to try mobile Suica, but since Suica is mainly for Eastern Japan, I can’t really use it right now. I already have a Suica card anyway so I’m not even sure if I need it.